I realised that I do not know much about Korean food. As far as I remember, I have only been to a Korean restaurant twice in Hong Kong – once at Chung Gye Chon at the famous Korean street in Tsim Sha Tsui, and another at iSquare for a friend’s birthday and of which I didn’t blog about. Though I have been to Seoul once, I had too few Korean meals to consider myself Seoul-out (God I love a bad pun) so, no, I conclude that I do not know much about Korean food, if at all.
Jahbchae (saute vermicelli with shredded mushrooms and vegetables).
For tonight I wanted to do something different for dinner, and the thought in getting our hands dirty with Korean BBQ seems apt. So we found ourselves at Sorabol Korean Restaurant at Lee Theater Plaza in Causeway Bay. Apparently, Sorabol is THE place to be at if you are looking for Korean food.
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Sometimes the best dinner plans are the ones unplanned. There’s something about doing meals impromptu with friends on loose ends, and that’s how I spent one of my Friday nights. I remembered seeing one of these roadside place packed with people at dinner time right behind Times Square, and I was eager to return to experience everything, exhaust fume and all.
Wong Kee Restaurant (also confusingly named Fai Kee Restaurant) is one of those hole in the wall Chinese place with spilled tables all over the roadside. Tang Lung Street seemed very boisterous with families eating out with children and boisterous men enjoying beer pints after work. It’s quite an atmosphere to soak in, especially considering that you are right smack in the middle of Causeway Bay.
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Once in a while you need to break out from your normal routine to discover new experience and enjoy different food. Thanks to my relentless colleagues who were out to get me for lunch every Friday (I swear, they timed it with their calendar), I found myself surrounded by the lovely ladies from the marketing department for some great Cantonese fare at the Fullka Restaurant.
Never heard of Fullka before? Well, neither did I, until that afternoon. Apparently this place was off-radar for most foodies, which was apparent by how not full it was during lunchtime on a working weekday. Further investigation revealed that this restaurant was previously named Home Wanchai (does that sound familiar?) and was helmed by Chef Lee Yue Ching of ‘Ah Yat Abalone’ fame. The set lunch was a steal at HK$88, where you get soup, one main course with rice, and a dessert. Since the main course is rather large in portion, you can go with a few friends so that you can mix and match from its extensive menu of true Cantonese food.
And so on to the lunch.
Pig Stomach Soup
Hand’s down, the best starter soup I have ever tried in Hong Kong (and that’s saying something). The soup was intense with peppery taste and was well balanced with the meaty goodness of the excellent pig stomach. The soup burns down as you drink it, in a very comforting way. It was such a perfect, fiery soup for a cold winter day.
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So I was at Hal’s Japanese Restaurant which was relocated from Central to Causeway Bay due to 2x increase in rent (according to Jason). Seems like many of the foodies know of and frequent this place, so I marked it onto my foodie to-do list for Causeway Bay area. Moon was in town, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to try out the restaurant.
Making a reservation was a breeze, and I realised why. Although I was some fifteen minutes late for my booking, the restaurant was empty. It felt like I booked the entire restaurant for our catch-up dinner; in fact, ours is the only table occupied for the entire night. It was a shame, really. The service by the entirely Japanese crew was stellar, though it would be nice if the two Japanese chefs smiled a little more. As for the food, well, Moon and I were about to find out.
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So once again I found myself in Causeway Bay racking my brain for a dinner spot with a buddy. Take it from me – if you have worked around the same area long enough, your brain will always go back to the same place for the same food.
Which was my excuse for going back to Hainan Shaoye. I have been there at least three times in the past for a quick meal, but for one reason or another, I have never blogged about it. So this time round I decided to really take note of what I am eating, look at it with a balanced eye of someone who have lived in Singapore long enough to (hopefully) know the bad and the good (the chef of Hainan Shaoye was apparently recruited from Chatterbox at Mandarin Orchard in Singapore, famous for their great chicken rice), and of someone who has his expectation, well, moderated, according to the local foodie taste.
The buddy wasn’t in the mood to have a large meal (there was this set meal with six dishes to share between two person for some $400, a good deal I must say), so once again I ordered some crowd favorite.
Without fail, my favorite Singapore rojak always draws the same reaction among my local friends. A grimace, that is. I guess this signature dish – cut fruits mixed with shrimp & belacan paste with cut tofu and deep fried dough, somewhat like a fruit salad with a spicy twist – is quite an acquired taste. I had always enjoyed my rojak, ordering it wherever I could. The version at Hainan Shaoye, though far from being on par with the original stuff, was more than adequate to scratch that foodie itch. I scooped up everything, peanuts and beansprouts and everything else. Something about that shrimp paste just evoke that Singapore glutton in me la.
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The other day I was out dining alone. Usually when I do that I will mind my own business, but on that occasion I couldn’t help but notice something strange at the next table. Four guys were wearing the same jersey; obviously they were from the same sports team and are of around the same age. One would think they were taking some timeout relaxing with each other after a hardcore training session. Some call it male bonding. Others see it as team camaraderie.
But no. I wish they were.
No, because all four of them were glued to their smartphones. Their eyes were aglow with the light from the little screens. They hardly notice the food in front of them, never mind their friends sitting physically right across… if only they care to look up.
Which brings to mind a recent article I read about food meditation.
In this age of smartphones and uber-connectedness, have we lost the ability to fully appreciate food? Have we got so used to eat mindlessly, that such an unhealthy habit and social rudeness (if you are not dining alone) became the norm? Became the expected?
I pondered over this as I was having a solitary lunch at Fiat Caffé, the famed themed restaurant with menu designed by the renowned Chef David Laris. Even though I was eating alone, I was determined to practice a bit of food meditation; an eating process that focused on nothing else but what you eat and how you eat, away from distractions of screens big and small.
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Once a month the shakers (of salts) and movers (of cheese) from the #hkfoodbloggers Facebook group will gather to collectively wield our cameras at unsuspecting waiters and create comfortable, unified silence as we devour plate after plate of delicious food. I might be green to this, but I am very sure seldom you can find a whole bunch of folks who can talk about nothing else but food all night long. And that night at Manor Seafood Restaurant, we sure have plenty to talk – and complain! – about.
Sizzling claypot oysters.
Let’s just say that places like Manor will do well to learn that, in the service industry – the customer is always right. Here’s the story: We booked a table for ten, and upon arrival we were seated in a nice private room. Being the dedicated foodies that we were, we already pre-ordered some popular food items, and after some haggling over the extensive menu we ordered a few more. Halfway through the dinner, the captain came in and told us that, hey, we are $1K short of our minimum charge, and please can we please order more food?
Signature stir-fried noodles with soy sauce.
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So it was Christmas and I was at Teppanyaki Sessyu, one of the many restaurants located with the Cubus building. Cubus is gastronomy heaven, evident from the range of high-end restaurants cooking and brewing from within. Last time I counted there were at least three Japanese restaurants at Cubus, and Sessyu is one of them.
It was my second feast at Sessyu, both time with the same boss. I love Sessyu for the exquisite decoration (check out the wagyu cow statue right smack in the middle of the restaurant) and personalised cooking. You get to witness how your food is cooked, by the chefs themselves right at your table. The set lunches are of exceptional value: for some $250-ish you get a whole range of high quality food, from silky soft chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg custard) to char-grilled tenderloin steak.
US Angus tenderloin.
Of course, with a set meal there bound to be hits and misses. However I am happy to report that most of the dishes included in Sessyu’s set meal have always been stellar. Of high recommendation is the fried garlic rice. This simple dish is made great by a sprinkling of burnt rice cooked specifically to be crusted on top of the rice, along with generous helping of garlic and anchovies, which gave it a delicious fragrant smell.
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Victoria City Restaurant is the third on my lunchtime to-do list of places to eat in Causeway Bay, which is where my office is located at. I have heard of this restaurant a couple of times from my colleague, but since it is located within the Crowne Plaza Causeway Bay Hotel (the same hotel where the delightful Pavilion is located at), I thought it would be too posh a place to lunch out on a normal work day. Isn’t it?
Well, if a new year is not the best time to break some rules and test some boundaries, I don’t know when is. So I threw my frugality mantra out the window and saunter down to Victoria City for a bit of posh Cantonese food.
I shouldn’t have worried about the price. The dishes, from dimsum to chef recommendations, were mid-range in price and certainly of great value for a restaurant operating in hotel. Since there were only two of us we were able to try out only a couple of dishes for the day.
Steamed Chicken Feet With Sauce (HK$19)
I wanted to say this is quite an acquired taste – not of the dish, but of chicken feet. But if you have been living in Hong Kong, eating chicken feet for breakfast is like eating raw oysters for lunch (okay, not quite good an analogy). I am not a fan of chicken feet, but often I will try this as a barometer of how good a Chinese restaurant is. This dish was a bit too oily and salty for my taste, but the chicken feet itself is succulent and easy to eat (read: not disintegrating the moment you bite into it, a definite must for those unable to wield a pair of chopsticks skillfully like yours truly). At three large claws we had enough to go for between the two of us.
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So the title of this blog post does sum up the experience quite nicely. Shun Kee Typhoon Shelter is certainly a authentically Hong Kong experience like no other. Imagine walking your way over the busy, extremely dangerous expressway, dodging traffic and getting lost, to find your way to the typhoon shelter (which, by the way, looks nothing like a shelter)…
… to be greeted with this sight.
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